I can’t wipe the smile from my face – it was so good. ArcTanGent is a music festival – no bullshit. Every person was there to see and support the bands, and of course we were all there for the party too. I’ve decided to go on a little bit of a different tack to my other reviews here, as this was a little bit different to my average festival outing. I’m giving you the ten best highlights from this event, building to a glorious crescendo that peaks with one of my best moments of the summer of 2013, which I will probably mull over whilst I am an old lady, remembering that I did know how to do it large in my vibrant and well spent youth.
10. Camp Arrangements
At ArcTanGent there was no divide between the sleeping and play areas, and no fences to separate you from the crate of warm Stella that you’d nestled between your sleeping bags. Not only can you freely carry your own drink and food around the site, but you can also camp wherever you like. If you wanted to, you could even park your tent up near the sound stages, although luckily nobody abused this rule by sticking their tent in the centre of the mosh pit – most tents were set back twenty or so meters from the main stage. As this was quite a small festival, this meant you could get between stages really fast and nip past your dwelling for a fresh beer. Or, as some of our friends discovered, you could look after a mate who had over done it back at your tent, and still hear what was going on just a few meters away on stage.
9. The Line Up That Dreams Are Made Of
When the line up for ArcTanGent came out I wondered if someone had taken my Spotify play-list and turned it into a Facebook event for a laugh. Getting a bit hysterical, I realized it was for real. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just the line up of my dreams, but that of every Post-Rock/Math Rock/Experimental-whatever-you-want-to-call-it type music lover. Yeah, I guess it’s a bit niche, but this is why the organisers were able to get so many quality acts on the bill, because up till now this is the genre that has been left out of the festival scene and a little forgotten by the money chasing promoters of the moment. I was expecting the line up might attract a crowd of hipsters, but I don’t think they’ve quite cottoned on yet to the unadulterated coolness of this sound, and even though there was a high count of fashion beards, fortunately every person we met was down to earth and there was no air of pretension.
8. Old Loves Vs New Loves
If you’re reading this review and you don’t know what I’m talking about you should probably check out some of the line up on the internet, and if you don’t like what hear then you should probably forget you ever heard about ArcTanGent. As I’ve already mentioned, the line up was littered with bands I know, love and have already seen multiple times. Rolo Tomassi put on a thrashing performance, The Pirate Ship Quintet gave me a lump in my throat, and I’m still not sure how the drummer from Three Trapped Tigers actually plays like that. There were also a fair list of bands I didn’t know – my new found loves include Yndi Halda, which is old Norse for “enjoy eternal bliss” who play a modern classical take on the Post-Rock genre. I was also impressed by Nordic Giants, who sound similar to Yndi Halda and play lengthy cinematic pieces to short films, and Vessels, who possess a very electronic noise, backed by a range of percussion, including hand-made tin can shakers. There were so many awesome bands, I could have written a point about each one.
7. Baby Godzilla
After awakening to a cacophony of beer cans cracking, slurping and ‘aaahhhh’-ing all around us, we crawled out of our tents and headed to the main stage to see Baby Godzilla. Last week I was listening to a radio show and a caller said that Baby Godzilla were their favourite band. I’d seen them on the line up and made a mental note to check them out. Bloody good job I did, as they are one of the most raw and energetic bands I think I have ever seen. They were the second band on, it was something like midday, they had been driving since 5.30am, and yet they had such a hold over the audience. The impression I got from the band was that they wanted to be dancing to their own tune, so they did. The guitarist spent most of the time running around the pit like a crazed canine, the front-man climbed monkey-like to the top of the stage frame, before swinging down to join his band mate in the pit, and even the drummer couldn’t help but get involved – he ended up detaching his snare drum and climbed into the centre of the crowd to play. Members of the audience were used as mic stands, musicians, stage-hands and backing vocals at the demand of the band. Nothing was planned, everybody was care free. When the band members wanted to return to stage they launched their instruments and themselves over the barrier, and they ended up breaking every one of their guitar strings. It was a whirlwind of energy and noise, definitely one to see for your self.
ArcTanGent was set in the beautiful Fernhill Farm where they raise and breed pedigree Saddleback Pigs, Aberdeen Angus Beef Cattle, Texel Sheep, and Indian Game Chickens. As a proper farm with high quality standards, they ran a wondrous cafe at the festival in a quaintly decorated marquee, alongside Lynda’s Loaf Bakery. One side of the marquee was serving up the sensuous smelling meats – spicy lamb sausages, beef burgers and mutton curry with a choice of home-made relishes. The other side of the marquee was a bakery sent from heaven. They had a selection of cakes,cheesecakes, and biscuits to die for, as well as the cheapest hot drinks on site, full loaves of seeded bread and a selection of oozing cheese-based treats. This was just one of the many food destinations, which included a Mexican bus, that made up a fantastic culinary selection at the event.
5. Fuck Buttons
It had only been a fortnight since I had first seen Fuck Buttons live, at a festival with a capacity of around seven times that of ArcTanGent, so was looking forward to seeing them in a much smaller environment. I love Fuck Buttons, I love their long drawn out repetitive melodies, and their slow, building crescendos that gradually get your heart beating faster. Gently swaying in the crowd, sipping from my plastic pint glass filled with wine, I felt almost weightless. I think the case may be with this band that the more intimate the venue, the better the atmosphere.
4. Around the Camp-fire
ArcTanGent only had an 11pm music license, although this didn’t matter for two reasons. Firstly, they hosted a silent disco on the main stage with DJ sets by bands that had played during the day. Secondly, for those who had spent the whole day dancing on their feet, there was a fantastic camp-fire, in a metal stand complete with disco balls, where you could sit around and get know other party-heads. I’m not really one for wearing headphones, as you can’t really interact with anyone properly whilst wearing them – so I spent all three evenings of the festival moving from log to log around the fire, chatting to anyone and everyone. I met some truly interesting characters, and by the third night we knew all the fire pit crew. It was like a contained festival family. I may even keep in touch with some people that we met there, if not, then I’m sure we’ll meet again next year.
Friday had already been amazing. We were running from stage to stage and back again, so we were already considerably hyped by the time we got to see the day’s headline act. I’ve seen 65daysofstatic several times before, and I couldn’t wait to see them again. As the band started, the mass of bodies in the crowd pulsated to the beat. 65Daysofstatic’s studio sound is amazing, but when you see them live it’s just something else. Their music sounds like it is being produced by synthesizers and sequencers, yet there is a real live band thrashing at their instruments in front of you, playing an astounding sound. An amazing way to finish the Friday night.
2. Bo Ningen
The festival was close to finishing. There were only three bands left to go that I wanted to hear, and the set times of two of these clashed badly. I hadn’t heard that much of either of them in the past, so we chose to do half and half, and needless to say this plan sadly failed. The first band we chose was Bo Ningen. I remember hearing quite a bit about them on the radio, but for some reason hadn’t paid them much attention. We walked into the tent to see what we thought were some sexy, slinky Japanese girls rocking out. It didn’t take long to realize they were all men, with the strangest of haircuts. I was sucked straight into the Acid Punk sound. When I say sucked in, I actually had to push my way in. Half way into the tent there was a wall of fairly well built men with their arms folded for no apparent reason. I couldn’t understand why they weren’t dancing, and it made my blood boil. I was off to dance with the real men – to fight in the pit. I was excited, it was surprisingly violent, and the music was raw. The last song lasted forever, and then just as everyone thought it was all over – they kept going. No one wanted to leave, including the band. This is exactly what ArcTanGent is about – discovering the bands you’re going to love for the rest of your life.
1. Future of the Left
Okay I am biased. I’m a massive FOTL fan. They’ve probably been my favourite band for four years or so, I’ve seen them live five times, and I think they are simply incredible. Seeing them live was always going to be my top moment, but I didn’t expect the rest of the crowd to be with me on this one. The atmosphere was astounding, and the huge crowd was peppered with tons of fans. You can’t just like Future of the Left – you have to be a hyper-fan. You have to jump around and smash into people you know and people you don’t. You have to shout the lyrics from the top of your voice – who gives a fuck if you sound like a football hooligan, because you do sound like a football hooligan – just one with brains, as you’re shouting the words of one of the greatest bands around. I should also mention at this point that these guys played on Friday night – but for me this is a great way to finish off my review as this was without question the apex of my experience.
2013’s ArcTanGent was bloody brilliant, and I have every intention of travelling back there next year, with my fingers crossed, hoping that they can repeat their success. This was such a good event I may even make it into my annual Postmathrock-Punkelectro pilgrimage.
For more information and tickets click here.
Photo credit: David Wilson Clarke